There is a perfectly good reason why I had three oranges in my purse.
Why was my purse so heavy? It felt like the weight of the world was on one shoulder. I believe I was tilting, and leaning to one side. It wasn’t until I reached for my car keys in my purse that I noticed the oranges. I really do have a perfectly sound reason as to why I had three oranges in my purse. I food shop for an elderly loved one who mentioned that they would like oranges added to their shopping list. I had just previously purchased a bag of oranges for myself and had numerous oranges left. I did not put oranges on the shopping list. Instead, I made a mental note to tuck some oranges in my purse to bring to my loved one next time I saw them. I just forgot they were in my purse when I headed out to the door, walking in a slanted and sloped manner.
An Idea Develops
I started thinking about the oranges in my purse and then my mind veered off course. I should have put tangerines in my purse instead. They would have been lighter, still in the citrus family, and I could have actually put more fruit in my purse to bring to my loved one. Then my mind took another turn. I thought about how healthy oranges can be, how historically sailors consumed oranges to ward off a debilitating disease called Scurvy. Immediately I had a lightbulb moment! A tea that I like happens to be packed inside a mandarin orange. I’ll combine my love of tea and oranges to create an article!
Mandarin Pu’erh, called Ganpu, is ripe Pu’erh tea that has been packed into a mandarin orange shell. Ripe (shou) Pu’erh tea is a category of black tea from the Yunnan province, with fermentation of the leaves occurring in an accelerated manner when the tea leaves are gathered into carefully monitored moist piles. Pu’erh tea has a wonderful earthy aroma, with a slight mushroom flavor profile. Mandarin oranges are their own group of citrus fruits, with a sweet, or sometimes slightly spicey flavor profile. Of the approximately two hundred varieties of mandarin oranges, several common varieties of mandarin oranges include the “Dancy”, and the “Satsuma” variety. These oranges are sometimes referred to as kid-glove, or loose-skin oranges due to the ease of peeling the thinner skinned oranges.
Mandarin oranges that are stuffed with Pu’erh tea, grow in a specific area of China. The oranges grow in the Xinhui district of the Guangdong province of china. The Guangdong province is located south of Fujian and north of Hong Kong. It is a coastal and mountainous region edging up to the South China Sea. It encapsulates what once was the famous old tea trading port, Canton. Guangdong is considered a bird paradise and home to Phoenix Mountain Oolong tea, and Shaoguan, or Guangdong, Mao Feng black tea.
Orange peel tea is a common staple in this region. Historically, Pu’erh tea from the Yunnan province and bits of mandarin orange peel from the Xinhui region are combined to make the highly sought after orange peel tea. Similar to how wine grapes vary in quality in relation to the country and region they were grown in, mandarin orange peel from Xinhui is favorably prized over other citrus peels grown in alternate locations. In fact, depending on the age of the dried mandarin orange peel (called Chenpi) from the Xinhui region, it can possibly command a higher market price than a ripe Pu’erh from the Yunnan province.
Ganpu is labor intensive and time consuming to produce. Numerous teams of people work together to create the famous Xinhui mandarin orange tea. Groups of workers pick, sort, and wash the oranges. Workers cut the top off the oranges, remove the pulp of the orange and then carefully and gently stuff the orange with Pu’erh tea. Care is used to keep the tea leaves and the shell of the orange intact. A cracked mandarin orange shell is still usable but does not attract top monetary value as an uncracked orange skin.
Once the mandarin orange is stuffed with the Pu’erh tea, the orange is dried. The length of drying the orange can vary depending upon the weather, humidity level in the air, and if artificial heat or radiant heat from the sun, is applied to the oranges. If the orange is not correctly dried, the tea inside the orange can become tainted with a sharp, harsh mouth feel. Or worse, the tea could become moldy inside the orange. Mandarin Pu’erh ideally has a sweet orange flavor profile and a smooth, full-bodied mouth feel. When the orange is sufficiently dried, it is piped in paper or plastic, packaged and then shipped to waiting tea distributors and customers around the world.
Making Mandarin Pu’erh At Home
My curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see if I could make mandarin tea at home. I went to the store to purchase the best looking, unblemished mandarin orange I could find. I washed the mandarin orange with produce wash and set the orange to dry. Next, I pulled out a cooked, or ripe Pu’erh tea from my tea cabinet and set to work making my own version of Ganpu tea. I collected a paring knife and a grapefruit knife from the kitchen to use to cut the top off the orange and scoop out the inside.
The orange was dry and ready for preparing. One stab mark and a band-aid later, I successfully cut a circle around the top stem part of the orange. I lifted the top off and saved the top to be dried along with the Pu’erh stuffed orange. Scooping out the pulpy sections of the orange was a little more complicated and labor intensive than first thought. I used the grapefruit knife that had the perfect angled blade, to circle around the inside of the orange, scraping out the pulpy sections. I managed not to cut or stab myself while completing this step. However, I did cut the peel, and if I chose to sell this orange (which I would not), the monetary value of my Pu’erh mandarin orange drastically decreased due to the cut peel.
Filling the orange with Pu’erh tea was relatively simple. I placed the tea in a four cornered dish, tipped the dish over the orange, and used one of the corners to direct the flow of the tea into the orange. I put the tiny orange top back on the orange, and placed the orange in my oven. I set the oven at the lowest temperature and dried the orange for hours. I used a crock pot overnight (with the lid off) to continue to dry out the orange. A food dehydrator would take less time to dry out the orange. In all, it took me approximately twenty four hours to completely dry the mandarin orange.
Steeping Mandarin Pu’erh
The mandarin tea can be steeped several ways. The entire orange can be placed in a traditional gaiwan (a “covered cup”) to steep the tea. Or part of the orange rind can be broken in bits and placed in a cup, along with a small amount of tea. Thirdly, the orange can also be placed in its entirety in a ziplock bag and gently crushed, or broken. The tea can then be scooped out in proportionate amounts for the steeping vessel. A teapot, or an infuser mug can also be used to steep the tea.
The tea needs to be “awakened” by simply pouring hot water (212 F) over the tea, washing the tea leaves and the orange. This quick infusion is discarded and future infusions are consumed. Depending upon if the entire orange is used or if sections of peel and loose leaves are used to make the tea, will dictate the amount of infusion time. If the whole orange is used, extremely short infusion times are needed. For example, perhaps a thirty second steep time for the first infusion, and adding roughly ten to twenty more seconds with each consecutive steep. Longer infusion times are needed for particles of orange peel and tea leaves. Perhaps a minute for the first infusion of tea, while adding more time to consecutive infusions may be adequate for each infusion. If a milder infusion is desired, then less steep time is needed, and vice versa.
With winter hopefully winding down, the orange flavored Pu’erh reminds me of brighter and warmer days ahead!
Thinking of Springtime while sipping Ganpu tea,
How Do They Stuff Tea Into Fruit? Pu’erh Tea Xinhui Mandarin Oranges.www.white2tea.com, December 1, 2015
Editorial Staff of Ortho Books,All About Citrus & Subtropical Fruits,Ortho Books, 1985.
Heiss, Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss.The Story Of Tea: A Cultural History And Drinking Guide.Ten Speed Press, 2007.
Pettigrew, Jane. World Of Tea: Discovering ProducingRegions And Their Teas.83Press, 2018. Pratt, James Norwood.Tea Dictionary. Tea Society Press, 2010.
Yin, Ling.Tao Of Chinese Tea: A Cultural And Practical Guide. Shanghai Press & Publishing Development Company, 2009.
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!